Automated assembly lines from KUKA Systems outfit Canada’s largest solar panel plant

Harnessing the Sun’s Power

Contributed by | Kuka Systems

KUKA Systems North America has made a successful entry into the burgeoning Canadian solar panel manufacturing sector, demonstrating in the process how it can adapt its extensive suite of automated production solutions to a panel maker’s unique requirements. KUKA Systems provides photovoltaic panel manufacturers around the world with fully automated production lines or any level of automation short of that, from cell layout through all stages of module assembly and quality control, regardless of type or dimensions.
For its first Canadian customer, KUKA Systems is installing three partially automated, post-lamination framing lines for trimming, framing, testing and packout of photovoltaic panels, a $12 million contract. Each line consists of five robots, as well as applicators, conveyors and other handling and testing equipment. Installation began in the first quarter of 2011.

120MW of annual production – per line
This customer is building Canada’s largest solar panel manufacturing plant, in southern Ontario. Each line will be capable of handling 120MW of annual production, making it North America’s largest manufacturing site for crystalline silicon-type panels and one of the largest on the continent making any type panel. “This is a landmark contract, one of our largest in North America to date and our first solar-related installation in the small but rapidly growing Canadian solar manufacturing sector,” says Robert Giaier, Vice President, Alternative Energy, KUKA Systems Corp North America. “We welcome the opportunity to contribute our solar technology and extensive experience as assembly line integrators to our customer’s success.” 
A definite plus for solar customers
The post-lamination lines were built first at KUKA Systems North America, tested in-house, then disassembled and trucked to the customer’s facility where they are being reassembled. “It’s fair to say installing a piece of automation in Ontario is more involved than in many other North American jurisdictions,” says Giaier. The technical requirements for electrical systems definitely are more stringent in a number of ways, covering transformers, special wiring and other safety considerations. “The fact KUKA Systems has installed complete automated assembly lines in Ontario for some of the world’s leading automakers is a huge help,” says Giaier. “We have a great deal of retained knowledge of the Ontario technical requirements and how to anticipate them in our planning and site preparation, a definite plus for our solar customers.”
Solar power industry
With the growth of the modern solar power industry, KUKA Systems, a world leading systems integrator specializing in manufacturing flexible automatic production processes, has developed and installed proprietary solar automation solutions for both the crystalline silicon and thin film sectors of the industry. Those technologies cover wafer, cell and module production, helping the PV panel manufacturing sector improve their competitiveness. KUKA Systems’ expertise in designing and building integrated assembly lines for the solar industry leverages decades of experience automating the assembly lines of some of the world’s largest automakers. The Ontario facility targets the Ontario market because of strong interest in solar power development being stimulated by attractive feed-in tariffs offered by the government of Canada’s most populous province.

KUKA Systems Corp North America, a Michigan-based company, is part of the KUKA Systems Group of Augsburg, Germany, a leading global supplier of flexible automation systems for the Automotive, Aerospace, Energy and Industrial Solutions sectors. Some 3,500 employees worldwide work on ideas, concepts and solutions for automated production and the provision of products and services for virtually all tasks in the industrial processing of metallic and non-metallic materials. The Energy Division offers engineering services, automated production modules and complete turnkey production lines for the photovoltaic, solar thermal and wind energy sectors.

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